Murray River dreaming: Artworks set to transform Wodonga’s riverfront

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WATCH THE VIDEO: Mick Bogie is constructing a larger-than-life platypus sculpture for the Burraja Art Trail, a five-kilometre path lining the Murray River featuring works of four Aboriginal artists, set for completion in June 2021.

For Wurundjeri’s Mick Bogie, platypus spotting was a regular occurrence when growing up in a dusty country town close to Wodonga.

Image of Mick Bogie“We lived close to the Murray and as far back as I can remember, my parents would take me swimming, fishing, camping or exploring in and around the river and we saw platypus many times,” recalls Mick. “I’d jump into the water and gently float along the banks and watch the platypus for ages going about their day.”

That pastime aligned with his roots, too.

“There are many platypus dreaming stories in Aboriginal culture, and I love how I can relate to many parts of those stories,” he says.

Transforming the dreaming and personal memories about the legally protected, egg-laying native mammal with webbed feet, a broad tail and a duck bill, into a work of art is now Mick’s focus, as he looks to complete a commission for the Burraja Art Trail.

“I wanted to be a part of this project to push myself out into a public space more and expand my range,” he says of accepting the commission. “I’ve felt like I always had, and was happy with, a small a voice in the region, but being involved in this project has just given it a bit more range.

“I also wanted to be involved in a community project for some time and when I was accepted for this one, I was excited to have something local and to leave something for future generations to see and learn from.

Mark Cottee profile image“The Murray feels like home to me. I have a strong connection to it and I am most comfortable when around it.”

Mark Cottee, former executive chair of the Burraga Cultural Centre, believes the cultural significance of the trail is priceless.

“The art trail is a means to display or showcase the cultural heritage of the local Aboriginal community,” he says. “Having these centres of cultural pride lifts the aspirations of community members and helps to build confidence and create a more unified community across Albury and Wodonga.”

In particular, Mark adds, this is a chance for the non-Aboriginal community to connect with the local traditional culture and gives a platform for the Aboriginal community to engage across all of community.

“This opens up a dialogue of truth telling and a real understanding of the past sufferings of the Aboriginal community in terms of colonisation impacts. This is about empathy and compassion being created between the two groups that breaks down the barriers of difference. The trail and the art help tell the story of connection to country that all people can learn and benefit from, regardless of ancestry.”